2015 Record: 8-6 (6-3)
Head Coach: Clay Helton (6-4, second year)
Returning Starters: 10 Offense/5 Defense
2015 Offense: 538 ypg (168 rush/270 pass); 33.9 ppg
2015 Defense: 401 ypg (149 rush/252 pass); 25.7 ppg
Offense: As long as head coach Clay Helton and offensive coordinator Tee Martin decide to stick with it, the Trojans have a great chance to lead the nation is rushing. They return the top two rushers from last season in Ronald Jones (987 yards, 8 TDs) and Justin Davis (902, 7) and three of their offensive linemen were All-Pac 12 selections last season -- LT Chad Wheeler, RT Zach Banner and LG Damien Mama. Helton recently named Max Browne as the starter under center and he should get really good at handing the ball off, but when he does drop back to throw, he'll have the luxury of having one of the best receivers in the country in Juju Smith-Schuster, who totaled 89 receptions for 1,454 yards and 10 scores as a sophomore last season, as his number one target. Throw in Adoree Jackson who should get a handful of touches on offense as well as Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell, Jr. and there is a lot of talent to keep defenses busy.
Defense: The Trojans lost all four of their starters up front, but like most USC teams, they have plenty of talent to step into those spots, but since they will all be sophomores, it's really tough to know how much they'll be able to pick up the ball and run with it. Luckily, they have Cameron Smith returning inside and he'll be the glue that holds things together up front after a standout freshman season that saw him rack up 78 tackles and three interceptions. The secondary is loaded and they return four starters in Jackson and Iman Marshall at corner as well as Marvell Tell and Chris Hawkins at the safety spots. New/old defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast runs an aggressive 3-4 defense and he'll let his players loose, hoping to put them in spots to succeed, but with the lack of experience up front, it will be interesting to watch how quickly they come along.
The Bottom Line: Helton was the safety choice as the head coach, but the pressure certainly is on as the man who hired him, Pat Haden, has retired and former Trojan wideout Lynn Swann was named as his successor back in April. As usual, there's lots of talent on the roster, but is Helton really the guy to lead them back to prominence in the Pac 12? The South is wide open for the taking, especially when you consider some of UCLA's issues so far this summer and the fact that Utah is replacing a lot of talent from last year's squad, but it's hard to say where things will wind up. As long as Browne is truly the guy and there isn't a revolving door at quarterback this fall, they should easily win eight or nine games, but will it be enough?